We both peered into the sewer grate, me and a nice older man who was off a cruise ship. There near the edge, submerged in the water, was the padlock.
“It made a perfect arch when it fell off the cart,” I said.
“What’s the lock for?” he asked, his back a bit crooked, shoulders a bit slumped, face a little sweaty like he’d had a hard day exploring our little national park.
“We’re starting a new business. Down here.” I motioned at the cruise ship tender line, the series of small out buildings that people like me had staked a claim in for a rental fee, trying to make a business, to become something different or become something more.
“Let’s see if we can get the grate off,” he said, bending and grabbing the heavy metal bars. He tugged. “Nope.”
We tugged together. It didn’t move even an inch.
“That’s so nice of you to try,” I said. “We can buy another.”
“It flew off perfectly,” he said, laughing.
“I wish someone had videotaped it. It was a beautiful fall.”
He kept laughing. “It just went perfectly in.”
We stopped staring at each other’s laughing faces and back down at the lock in the murky water.
“It’s not a bad omen,” he said. “It’s a good one.”
“How is that?”
“Because you’re laughing. If you can laugh? You can get through anything.”
“Even failures?” I asked.
I think I might have made him pause for a second, maybe taken him aback, but then he smiled again, standing up really straight. “Failures especially.” He winked. “But you won’t fail.”
Shaun’s pretty amazing, honestly. Just like that cruise ship guy.
We have a lot of new things that I’m afraid of failing at and it would be awesome if you checked them out.
First there’s a new LIVING HAPPY blog where we talk about our journey toward happiness despite all the chaos that is our life. We delve into a bit of psychology, too. Also, all the writing tips are over there.
And I have a local news blog.
Finally, we have a super cool new true crime podcast, DUDE NO! I hope you’ll check it out. Our second episode comes out tomorrow. It’s always on Tuesdays.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
Cheerleading mutant. It sounds pretty awful, but it’s actually a good thing. Because that optimism and gratitude help make your brain healthier and life better. That gives you the sort of cheerleading persona, but where does the mutant come in? Hang on and we’re going to tell you . . .
First let’s define gratitude
“Gratitude is associated with a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person” (Emmons & McCullough, 2004).
Arthur C. Brooks wrote in an article called, “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.”
‘Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants.”
Though we may not have those genes, we can make the choice to become happier by working on being more grateful. It’s like that smiling thing, we talked about ages ago (last month) where if you really smile and move all your facial muscles, your brain gets tricked into thinking you’re happy.
“If grinning for an uncomfortably long time like a scary lunatic isn’t your cup of tea, try expressing gratitude instead. According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).”
Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, believes that if you write notes to people telling them you’re grateful for them, it makes you happier. That outgoing gratitude makes you more positive. He suggests writing two a day.
According to positive psychology.com’s Madhuleena Roy Chowdhyr,
“Simple practices like maintaining a gratitude journal, complimenting the self, or sending small tokens and thank you notes can make us feel a lot better and enhance our mood immediately. Couple studies have also indicated that partners who expressed their thankfulness to each other often, could sustain their relationships with mutual trust, loyalty, and had long-lasting happy relationships.”
“It was revealed that the reason why some of us are naturally more grateful than others, is the neurochemical differences at the Central Nervous System. People who express and feel gratitude have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (Zahn, Garrido, Moll, & Grafman, 2014).”
The article goes on to say that gratitude lessens pain, improves the quality of your sleep, gets rid ‘of toxic” emotions and helps anxiety, depression and stress regulation.
Today, I made my first GOFUNDME that was for a person and not a nonprofit and that was a little scary.
I don’t know how to express how important and lovely it is to help others, especially when there are people like my friend who spend so much time helping to create things like playgrounds and events and keeping theaters alive.
And this guy? He’s worked so hard to build up his career and he’s a yoyng dad and now he’s already piled up $16,000 in medical debt and that just hurts my heart so much.
This one is about the kiddo lying that they slept on a couch (a hard, hard couch) at Disney
Some people make kindness feel and seem so effortless. When our dog, Gabby died, the amazing and talented Rebecca Van Slyke sent us this beautiful art that she created of Gabby. It’s gorgeous. She’s gorgeous and talented. It’s below. Look at it! Isn’t it amazing?
People being kind? It’s really people being brave. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and be kind today, okay?
And also don’t forget to let people reach out and be kind to you, too.
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
This week the psychologist for the school system looked at my spouse (Shaun) and me across the island in our kitchen and said, “You two are really very grounded.”
He is lovely and kind.
But as we’ve dealt with crisis after crisis with our kiddo, I’ve noticed how other people are surprised when they come into our house to talk to our thirteen-year-old. They say things like, “Oh, it’s so peaceful here.”
“Your house is so clean.”
“You have such a lovely, quirky decorating style.”
“You both are so . . . responsive.”
“ . . . intelligent.”
“ . . . kind.”
“ . . . receptive.”
“ . . . caring.”
“ . . . well-balanced.”
“ . . . supportive . . . together.”
The kindness is wonderful, obviously. But it’s really got me thinking about the surprise in people’s voices when they give these compliments. All these people have been lovely, but what they’ve taught me these past few weeks is that when you have a child who is having a significantly hard time either mentally or developmentally, people seem to expect you to be that way as well.
One of the reasons I’m writing about this is that I don’t talk a lot about our kiddo. There are a lot of reasons for that.
When their adopted mother (I am just the bonus mom married to the adopted dad, complicated, I know) was still parenting all the time, she really didn’t like it when I even posted a photo of our kiddo with a friend’s child. It made her sad. But we’ve had this kiddo for two years now and I’m done with worrying about what someone who rarely sees their child thinks.
So that isn’t what is holding me back any longer.
I was thinking that I wanted to protect the kiddo’s privacy, but I never did that with my older biological daughter as she was growing up.
So why would I be protecting this kiddo’s privacy.
I think it’s not because of internet bad guys.
I think that it would be because of stigma. And you know what? I’m done with stigma.
It’s okay to have a kid who breaks your heart and that you worry for, and who you want to magically be able to control their temper and make the right decisions and be able to socialize in a way that they themselves want to.
We have a kid like this.
We don’t hide it in real life. We don’t need to hide it online either. Our kid knows that they are getting special programs (or were) and a different educational experience.
The Other Side Of Not Hiding
But it’s preconceived notions of us as parents, even by professionals, that is the real reason we’re going to be super open about this part of our journey and other parts, too.
Having a child in crisis doesn’t make us any less who we were as people before. It doesn’t make us unclean, ungrounded, unintelligent, uncaring, or unbalanced. It gives us stress as we navigate the systems trying to find the best help and options for that child, but it doesn’t change who we inherently are or how we inherently love.
Prejudice, stigma, bias, and discrimination are all expressions of oppression, “a concept that describes a relationship between groups or categories of people in which a dominant group benefits from the systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed toward a subordinate group” (Johnson, 2000, p. 293).
It’s stigma that makes all the people who have come into our home this last month be surprised. It’s stigma that makes us think we have to protect or hide things about our selves or our lives when they don’t mesh with society’s typical standards.
Stigma leads to bias. It leads to preconceived notions. It leads to not understanding each other.
People have always asked me why I am so open about things, why I always want town and nonprofit boards, town councils, other people to feel open too when they’re ready. It’s because this. I don’t think there is anything to hide.
Hiding makes you feel shame.
Hiding also makes you lie. Sometimes. Sometimes a lot. I’ve watched that destroy people.
Lying often makes you anxious. Anxiety holds you back.
All of that sucks.
I’ve never hidden tons of things about myself, which doesn’t mean that I talk about them constantly or even often, and that’s because I don’t want to have those things become all that I am. Because I’m a lot more than being a person who has survived a lot of things, a person with sloshy s’s, with epilepsy, with history, with a bonus kid who needs so much help. And so are you. So are all of us.
When our kid was upset the other day because of a terrible thing they’d said to their principal about their teachers—a thing that will have huge repercussions—they slumped on their bed and tears formed. For our kid? Tears are a big deal and rare.
We’d already talked about choice and responsibility. We’d already talked about how once you say or do things, you can’t always take them back, especially if that talk or act is violent. We talked about what happens when you say or do violent things. We talk about this all the time. All. The. Time.
But this day, it was almost like they’d got it and they said, “I hate who I am. There is nothing good in me.”
And I listed all the things that were good. How they loved and were so protective of their internet friends. How they could create entire AUs and make people laugh with their droll humor. How they took good care of their cats. How they were amazing at digital art and making animations, and getting better at it all the time.
It might not be enough that practical list, and it might not be enough for you or me or any of us sometimes, but it’s what you have to hang on to when you’re facing stigma and crisis and self-doubt. You have to remember to try to live the truth of who you are.